CNET First Look
Fitbit Ionic is the most advanced Fitbit watch... but not the best smartwatchIt has tons of features, including music, payments, waterproofing and great battery life. It's not all perfect though.
It tells time, it tracks fitness, it also packs in a lot more than that. Heart rate, sleep tracking, swim tracking, full 50 meter water resistance, mobile payments, music storage, GPS, apps. Fitbit ionic sounds like it's a full on smart watch. In a way it is but here's what you need to know about Fitbits new premium watch and how it's different. And what it still needs to work on. A squared off ionic design isn't going to make everyone's fashion day, but the large watch felt pretty good on my wrist, over a month of wear. It;s mix of touch screen and three physical buttons offers options. The display is easy to read. I like wearing it. Using Iona is where things get trickier. The fitness forward features work best. A dozen plus watch face is I'll do a good job showing basic stats at a glance including instant heart rate. Starting and stopping workouts is a button press away. But to access apps, you're gonna have to do a lot of swiping. And there aren't many apps yet. Fitbit is opening up a store for more apps and watch faces down the road, but that's not here yet. Instead you'll get Strava, a Starbucks card payment app, weather, a music app for storing for storing files on watch, and Pandora. Plus Fitbit's coaching app. Ionic can store and play music via bluetooth headphones, but it's a messy affair. Music files can only be transferred via computer, or via premium Pandora subscription service. Even then, playlist syncing is limited and takes a long time. Fitbit ionic headphones pair more automatically. I had some problems connecting the AirPods The Ionics large display is an easy to touch control and many apps dont seem to make maximum use of the screen. Workouts dont show much data and weekly stats can't be browsed. You can't even review sleep habits unless your in the phone app. Fitbit's app is really good and has plenty of hook ins for things like connected scales, nutrition tracking and analysis of sleep habits against demographic averages. It's Fitbit's social network that makes it most worth using. You know people who use Fitbit, and so it's easier to join challenges with friends. Because Fitbit works across Android, IOS and Windows, and Mac, friends won't be excluded. But Ionic doesn't feel the excellent smart watch I was hoping for. It's a fine fitness watch but one that still feels like a work in progress. Watch faces need to be separately loaded from the phone app and multiple ones can't be stored on watch. Ionic can't make phone calls and even notifications are simple passive pop-ups. You can't respond to them That's fine if you're not expecting a smart watch. But at $300, Fitbit Ionic is in spitting distance of Apple Watch. iPhone owners will get a far more polished product in Apple Watch. So Fitbit Ionic can actually stand on its own for some features, including music and payments. But here's the thing. If you use music, you're gonna have to sync with your computer to get tracks on, or sign on for Pandora subscription audio. And for payments, while it can put a credit card onto this for something that works like Apple Pay or Android Pay, not all banks are supported yet. So you might find, like I did, that your credit card doesn't work. If you're looking for a Fitbit, it's probably the biggest and best all-around GPS-equpped swim-friendly watch. But it's not the best smart watch. [BLANK_AUDIO]